How to Mitigate the Impact of Coronavirus on International Student Recruitment

Exclusive QS survey data has revealed how prospective international students are dealing with the coronavirus, and the ripple effects for international student recruitment.  

The coronavirus, or COVID-19, has caused devastating ripple effects and significant disruptions to industries worldwide. 

To understand the impact on the higher education sector and its student mobility flows, QS asked prospective international students whether the coronavirus had impacted their plans to study abroad. 

As of February 26, the results reveal that an encouraging 61% of respondents said the global health crisis had not affected their plans to study abroad, while 27% said it had.  

Of those respondents whose plans had been impacted by coronavirus, 37% said they now intend to defer their entry to next year, which suggests that the impact on international student recruitment may be short-lived for institutions.  

Additionally, 33% said they now intend to study in a different country and only a minority of 11% said they no longer want to study overseas. 

Understandably, many respondents cited health concerns as the key reason why they decided to change their study plans.  

One respondent states: “I got accepted into an MBA program in Hong Kong, however, I declined the offer due to a few factors, one of them being the proximity to the coronavirus outbreak.” 

Another prospective student says the virus has already impacted many students: “The coronavirus has affected so many people, either directly or indirectly, because so many of us were planning to go to Europe or China for our studies, but the outbreak of this disease has scared people away.” 

Given these perspectives, how can institutions ensure their student mobility flows are sustainable during this health crisis?  


With such a large proportion of students deciding to defer until the health crisis has dissipated, universities will need to be more flexible than ever before. 

Allowing students to defer, whether that’s for a semester or a year, and offering greater leniency around strict application processes and deadlines will help ease the burden on prospective students and provide them with more avenues to study at your institution.  

Offering online learning, virtual learning platforms, or other Education 4.0 practices can help institutions to connect with students without any potential health risks.  

Explore what practices work best for your institution’s distance learning cohort and consider offering them as tools to prospective international students.  


It’s important to remember that these global health crises often breed uncertainty and fear, and your institution doesn’t need to contribute to this hysteria.  

Be clear, communicative, and empathetic with prospective international students and make sure that all staff are trained on what to say and how to deal with this crisis.  

Whether that’s lecturers or admissions staff, each staff member needs to have a good understanding of the health risks, how to mitigate them, and the university’s position.  

For admissions staff, offering practical advice and emotional support to prospective international students will be even more crucial.  

While coronavirus may impact your institution, maintaining strong student mobility flows is dependent upon how your institution proactively and strategically deals with this health crisis. 

For more insights about how the coronavirus is impacting the higher education sector, please explore our QS COVID-19 Resources hub 

To discuss these issues in more detail, please contact our QS Consulting team 

How to Mitigate the Impact of Coronavirus on International Student Recruitment
Article Name
How to Mitigate the Impact of Coronavirus on International Student Recruitment
Exclusive QS survey data has revealed how prospective international students are dealing with the coronavirus, and the ripple effects for international student recruitment.
Publisher Name
QS Quacquarelli Symonds
Publisher Logo

About the Author:

As the B2B Content Marketing Manager, Sarah Linney is responsible for communicating the insights, research, and market analysis that have positioned QS as a thought leader in the higher education sector. After completing a Communications-Journalism degree at Charles Sturt University in Australia, Sarah worked in radio news and B2B print publishing before joining the content marketing sector. While working at a content marketing agency, Sarah was transferred to their New York office. She then led content marketing efforts at two tech startups in New York as a Content Manager before deciding to make the move to the UK and QS. 

One Comment

  1. Ramesh Kumar Nanjundaiya March 29, 2020 at 11:36 pm - Reply

    Internationalization of Higher Education and student mobility overseas during 2020 – impact on replacing qualified retired people in the job market.

    I am looking at the “Internationalization of Higher Education” sector on a global basis to assess the repercussions after undertaking a brief research and talking to a few universities. For starters it looks like the year 2020 could be a watershed year for international student mobility. This will certainly show a major blip in the numbers of new potential students seeking admission to overseas Universities. For example, in the year 2018-2019, USA which is the biggest market for international students had earned an amount of US$ 42 billion from them. The majority of international students who came were from China and India. But today, it is reported that the US Embassy in these two countries and other countries as well have stopped visa appointments and interviews. Same holds true for many European Universities. It is a well known fact that International students start preparing at least 8 months in advance for admission to the fall session of the semester in the USA universities. This time, even there could be delays in their home countries to finish their respective degree requirements due to Covid 19. In view of this knockdown effect, this will not fructify as “admission acceptance” may not happen currently in April and May months. Alternatively in light of COVID-19, what colleges and universities around the world are busy doing is to take various actions in order to secure the well-being of their existing students and staff, as well as members of their communities. Most universities have already contacted their domestic and international students – especially those students from the countries most affected by the virus to ensure their well-being. Most of the classes have been converted to online courses. Some well off universities also looking at some type of financial assistance to some students who may not have access to funds due to the virus closedown as well as counselling and health services. Today over 200 colleges and universities in the United States have suspended classes or have moved them all online as a prevention to the spread of COVID-19. Some institutions are establishing the infrastructure needed to prevent their students from group gatherings. They are also preparing business continuity plans for their administrative and academic staff so that they can work remotely. As things stand now, students planning to attend overseas Universities for higher education need to postpone their plans by at least 6 months which means try for admission in summer of 2021. This year will effectively go away if admission decisions by the Universities for new admits are not closed by May 2020. Students mobility for higher education in well known overseas universities could reduce as much as 70 percent. it may be remembered that as an example in the USA alone about the number of Americans retiring daily has nearly doubled since the year 2000. Currently, roughly 10,000 people turn 65 each day, the standard age for retirement, according to a Deutsche Bank note published Tuesday. And according to Census forecasts, that number is set to rise. It will reach nearly 12,000 people within the next 10 years. By 2030, according to the Census Bureau, all baby boomers will be older than 65. Where will one get people to replace them. International STEM graduates, with good English who have done their Masters in a known US University campus recently stand a good chance for gainful employment and to help the USA economy grow. But for now, for new international student build up even to the level of 2018-2019, it will take atleast 24 months from 2021. Just a thought. Ramesh Kumar Nanjundaiya, Camp: Sunnyvale, California

Leave A Comment